Saturday, March 31, 2012

Sol Bulletin #9

The following is excerpted from issue #9 of the Sol Bulletin, an ad hoc news sheet distributed electronically among survivors of the Battle of Earth in the chaotic period following the firing of the Crucible. Issue #9 was released eleven days after the Crucible fired. 

Arcturus Flotilla Returns Through Charon Relay
The Arcturus Flotilla returned to the Sol system today, seven days after it first departed and five days after its predicted return. The Flotilla's flagship, the famous SSV Normandy, marked its return by broadcasting the message, "Welcome back to the galaxy, Sol. You're welcome." Celebrations matching the ebullient tone took place through out the Sol system in recognition of what Admiral Hackett called in a statement, "The first step toward restoring galactic civilization."

However, the festive mood was quickly dampened when observers noted the absence of two ships, the Asari frigate Joyous and the Alliance cruiser SSV Manila. The entire Flotilla moved beyond the Oort cloud at the edge of the Sol system and in what some experts say looks suspiciously like a quarantine procedure.

The Inter-species Summit began a closed-door meeting hours after the Flotilla's return. No explanation has yet been given for the missing ships or for their current station beyond the Oort cloud. Admiral Hackett did issue a brief statement on behalf of the Summit. He stated that the Flotilla's mission was a success and that it did not encounter any Reapers, active or otherwise. He confirmed that the Joyous and the Manila were both lost with all hands, but said that the Flotilla took no other casualties.

"I'm sorry, but we don't have all the details yet," he said. "We'll release them to you as they become available.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Sol Bulletin #8

The following is excerpted from issue #8 of the Sol Bulletin, an ad hoc news sheet distributed electronically among survivors of the Battle of Earth in the chaotic period following the firing of the Crucible. Issue #8 was released ten days after the Crucible fired.

Quarian Admiral Visits Earth As Relief Missions Begin
Today marked the first large-scale deployments of personnel from the various alien fleets to assist in the recovery efforts on Earth. Although every species made contributions – including even the aquatic Hanar, who sent a team that will assist in the repair of several undersea geothermal power plants – by far the largest deployments came from the Geth and Quarian fleets, which have the largest pools of much-needed technical talent.

Admiral Tali’Zorah vas Rannoch absented herself from the Inter-species Summit today in order to accompany the combined Geth/Quarian mission to Mexico City. She assisted the team in restoring 90% of the city’s power grid in one day, a feat that has restored electricity to millions for the first time since the Reaper’s first attacked. She also took time to meet with President Lisa Ford, and even to visit an elementary school and speak to the children.

“I’ve been lucky to serve on ships with many humans,” the Admiral told the press on her way off-world to return to the summit, “but today I got to see a new side of your people. You are not just the brave warriors and skilled professionals I have met out in the galaxy. You also come from a beautiful world, and raise beautiful children. My people’s greatest wish is that, someday soon, our children will live happy and healthy lives on our own homeworld. It is a great privilege for us to be able to help you restore such a life to your children."

Admiral Zorah downplayed reports of Quarian and Geth relief workers being met with suspicion and hostility by the local populace. “Most humans do not know very much about us, and the human history with the Geth is obviously very complicated. Our suits and the Geth platforms must seem strange to people who just spent several months fighting the Reapers. Things will get easier as we get to know each other better.”

Asked about her time with Commander Shepard, Admiral Zorah said the Commander was “one of the best people I‘ve ever met. Everyone on Earth should be proud of her accomplishments.” She declined to comment on Commander Shepard’s current well-being.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sol Bulletin #7

The following is excerpted from issue #7 of the Sol Bulletin, an ad hoc news sheet distributed electronically among survivors of the Battle of Earth in the chaotic period following the firing of the Crucible. Issue #7 was released nine days after the Crucible fired.

This story is one of very few to appear in the Sol Bulletin with a byline. Before the Reaper War, Khalisah al-Jilani had a reputation as a "gotcha" journalist, a performer and pundit who focused more on embarrassing public figures to grab ratings and push a pro-human agenda than on getting at the truth. During and after the war, however, she put her investigative instincts and fierce intelligence to better use. At the time the Crucible fired, she had become respected for her ability to doggedly chase down a story and dedication to speaking truth to power.

The appearance of her name on this story is often interpreted as a deliberate choice by al-Jilani and her associates at the Sol Bulletin to add credibility to what they knew would be a controversial story. al-Jilani also had a history with Shepard, albeit a frequently contentious one, and it's possible she felt the need to put her name on this story due to its personal significance to her.

Special Report: The Fate Of Commander Shepard
By Khalisah al-Jilani

In the wake of the Battle of Earth, Shepard is undoubtedly the most celebrated name in the Sol System. Commander Jenna Shepard's remarkable military exploits are matched only by her diplomatic achievement in helping to form the galactic alliance that attacked Earth and activated the Crucible. It is perhaps surprising, then, that Shepard's fate in the Battle of Earth has remained a mystery - until now. The Sol Bulletin has collected circumstantial evidence that suggests that the Alliance may deliberately be hiding the truth about Commander Shepard's fate.

Alliance High Command currently lists Commander Shepard as missing in action, and they refuse to make any comment about her role in the Battle of Earth, claiming details of the operation are still classified. Nonetheless, based on eyewitness testimony, the Sol Bulletin has put together a rough outline of Shepard's movements during the conflict.

Though Shepard was nominally in command of the famous SSV Normandy, Shepard was a marine officer first, and it has been widely assumed that she was attached to Operation Hammer, not Operation Sword. The purpose of Hammer was to bring ground forces to the Beam, the transit the Reapers had set up between the Citadel and Earth, so that they could retake the Citadel and open its arms. The Crucible would then be able to interface with the Citadel in order to fire.

The Sol Bulletin spoke to many soldiers who took part in Hammer and eventually found Operations Chief Daniel Ogawa, an M35 Mako tank driver with the 12th Mobile Brigade. He says Shepard, in characteristic blue N7 armor, provided infantry support to his column. Ogawa reports that Commander Shepard was accompanied by a biotic in Alliance armor, who seemed well-known to the Commander - this was almost certainly Major Kaidan Alenko, currently commanding the Arcturus Flotilla - and an unknown Asari commando.

Ogawa's unit achieved their objective (albeit with heavy casualties) and, in conjunction with other heavy units, destroyed the Reaper guarding the Beam. Ogawa reports that Shepard then left the column with the rest of the infantry support, presumably to go to the forward rallying point where Admiral Andersen organized the final attack on the Beam - a desperate rush across a killing field under fire from several Reaper capital ships.

It is widely assumed that Shepard died like so many others on the killing field. However, some members of Hammer did reach the Beam and achieve their ultimate objective of opening the Citadel - obviously, since Hammer succeeded and the Crucible did fire. One of those soldiers, the "poster boy" most publicly celebrated by Alliance High Command after the battle, was Major Kaidan Alenko - Shepard's companion for the first stage of the battle.

Knowing that Shepard and Alenko were togther earlier suggests that Alenko might be able to shed light on the Commander's fate. Either she made it to the Beam with him and he would presumably know what had happened to her on the Citadel, or she did not and most likely fell to fire from the Reapers. Unfortunately, Major Alenko is unavailable for comment; he was put in command of the Arcturus Flotilla and is currently unreachable beyond the Charon Relay.

Though it went largely unremarked at the time, Alenko's appointment to this command was somewhat unusual. While a decorated and experienced officer, Alenko is part of the Alliance Marine Corps and has never had command of a ship. This is not to suggest that Alenko is necessarily unqualified: he does have other types of leadership experience as well as a technical background that makes him uniquely suited to the Flotilla's scientific mission. Nonetheless, there are any number of more obvious candidates in the various fleets stranded in Sol.

Is it a coincidence that one of the best sources for information about Commander Shepard was rushed out of the system on an assignment outside his area of expertise? And why does the Alliance High Command claim that events pertaining to Operation Hammer are classified once Commander Shepard's name is mentioned when every soldier the Sol Bulletin spoke to was happy to speak to press, never having been ordered issues otherwise? And, of course, what really happened to Commander Shepard?

The Sol Bulletin does not have answers to these questions. But we pledge not rest until we do.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sol Bulletin #6

The following is excerpted from issue #6 of the Sol Bulletin, an ad hoc news sheet distributed electronically among survivors of the Battle of Earth in the chaotic period following the firing of the Crucible. Issue #6 was released eight days after the Crucible fired.

Arcturus Flotilla Overdue - Could Reapers Be To Blame?
It is now the fourth day since the Arcturus Flotilla jumped through the Charon Relay with the mission of restoring the Relay on the far side, allowing return transit. The process was expected to take up to two days using the new Relay activation procedure developed by Crucible scientists. No ships or communications have come back through the Relay, and authorities and experts are unwilling to rule out any possibilities about the Flotilla's fate - including surviving Reapers.

Admiral Hackett issued a statement urging calm. "We're monitoring the situation very closely," he said. "The Flotilla has been gone longer than expected, but we're still within mission parameters. We still expect them back anytime, but we're preparing contingencies to meet any eventuality."

The Sol Bulletin went to Luna to talk to Dr. Liara T'Soni, an Asari Prothean expert who played an integral role in developing the new Relay activation procedure. Dr. T'Soni said that any number of factors might be causing a delay. "The Arcturus Relay might require a slightly different activation process than the Charon Relay, or perhaps more power. Or, the delay might have nothing to do with the Relay. Beyond the best estimates of Crucible scientists, we have very little information about what happened outside the Sol system when the Crucible fired. It's even remotely possible there are still active Reapers elsewhere in the galaxy, and the Flotilla may have encountered one."

Dr. Tsoni emphasized that, to the best of her knowledge, the Crucible should have affected all Reapers in range of the Relay network and that the odds of an active Reaper being present in Arcturus are very small. Echoing Admiral Hackett, she said she expects the Arcturus Flotilla back at any moment. "I don't want to provoke a panic, and I don't believe there's cause for one. Nonetheless, we should keep in mind the human expression." Which expression? "'Hope for the best. Plan for the worst.'"

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sol Bulletin #5

The following is excerpted from issue #5 of the Sol Bulletin, an ad hoc news sheet distributed electronically among survivors of the Battle of Earth in the chaotic period following the firing of the Crucible. Issue #5 was released seven days after the Crucible fired.

Tensions Mount in Inter-species Summit
The ongoing summit between leaders from the various alien fleets and intact Sol settlements nearly collapsed today. A discussion of plans for making contact with Asari colonies flared into conflict when Urdnot Wrex, leader of the Krogan forces attached to the Turian fleet, criticized a casual use of the phrase "Council races" by Matriarch Lidanya, captain of the Destiny Ascension and acting commander of Asari forces in Sol.

"There are no Council races anymore," the Krogan reportedly told the summit. "There's no damn Council, and no Citadel for it to meet on anyway. And if you want a new Council, you can get use to having a Krogan at the table.”

Urdnot’s proclamation led to chaos in the summit chamber. Order was only restored after Admiral Hackett arrived and personally addressed the summit, calling for unity and a focus on the summit’s agenda.

After the summit recessed for the day, Admiral Quwil, commander of Salarian forces in Sol, issued a statement, criticizing Urdnot Wrex for using the summit as a “platform for personal aggrandizement.” Matriarch Lidanya was more conciliatory in her own statement, echoing Admiral Hackett in asking for a focus of more immediate issues. Urdnot Wrex’s own statement was brief but dismissive: “The so-called ‘Council Races’ know things are going to change. If they don't want to admit it yet, that's their problem.”

As of press time, Primarch Victus had issued no statement on Wrex's remark. The summit is scheduled to resume tomorrow morning.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Sol Bulletin #4

The following is excerpted from issue #4 of the Sol Bulletin, an ad hoc news sheet distributed electronically among survivors of the Battle of Earth in the chaotic period following the firing of the Crucible. Issue #4 was released six days after the Crucible fired.

Citadel Search-and-Rescue Operations May Cease
Search-and-rescue operations on the Citadel continue today. Officials and rescue workers have been tight-lipped about conditions on the station, which was under Reaper control for more than a day and which suffered heavy damage when the Crucible was fired. The Bulletin secured an interview with Garrus Vakarian of the Turian Hierarchy, who has been put in charge of the search-and-rescue effort.

SOL BULLETIN: Thank you for speaking with me, Mr. Vakarian. I'll get right to it.

GARRUS VAKARIAN: That would be appreciated.

SB: Can you describe the damage to the Citadel?

GV: No. Not really.

SB: I see. Can you give us any detail at all?

GV: The wards are where we're finding most of the survivors. There's a lot of structural damage, but some people managed to hide in secure places with enough air and food to last till now. Not many. The Presidium... You wouldn't recognize the Presidium.

SB: Any survivors there?

GV: [pause] No.

SB: How long will search-and-rescue operations continue?

GV: I wish I could say as long as it takes, but the fact is we're spending a lot of resources to save very few lives. I've got people on my team who could be doing a lot of good work on Earth or in the fleet. We're also burning fueling ferrying people back and forth.

SB: Does this mean that search-and-rescue operations are going to stop soon?

GV: I didn't say that. We haven't given up yet. But we're looking at what this is costing and what we have, and the arithmetic isn't pretty.

SB: Don't we have a responsibility not to abandon any survivors on the Citadel?

GV: We've got a lot of responsibilities. I've got 20 military engineers working for me. They could probably restore running water to a major metropolitan area on Earth in a few days. Or they could roll the dice on maybe finding one or two more survivors in the same amount of time.

SB: Are the numbers really that bad?

GV: No, not quite. But my team doesn't mess around. We've found all the easy ones and all the big ones. And we're doing our best to find the rest, I promise.

SB: Mr. Vakarian, I understand that you were on the ground for Operation Hammer when the Crucible fired. Can you tell me a little about your experience?

GV: I killed a lot of husks.

SB: And?

GV: Cannibals too. I even took down a Banshee myself. That's what we called the indoctrinated Asari - banshees.

SB: I see. Mr. Vakarian, you were stationed aboard the SSV Normandy for most of the War, and also during the Saren affair.

GV: I went on the assault against the Collector base, too. It's surprising how often humans forget that one, considering Shepard did it for you.

SB: Yes, thank you. As I'm sure you're aware, there have been a great many rumors circulating about the fate of Commander Shepard, who's currently listed as missing in action. Is it true that you were with the Commander on...

GV: [overlapping] Do you have any more questions about search-and-rescue operations?

SB: Mr. Vakarian, Commander Shepard is a beloved figure and people want to know...

GV: [overlapping] Please reassure your readers we're making every effort. Excuse me.

SB: Thank you for your time, Mr. Vakarian.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sol Bulletin #3

The following is excerpted from issue #3 of the Sol Bulletin, an ad hoc news sheet distributed electronically among survivors of the Battle of Earth in the chaotic period following the firing of the Crucible. Issue #3 was released five days after the Crucible fired.

Inter-species Summit Convenes on SSV Elbrus
With the fate of the Arcturus Flotilla still unclear, today the dreadnought SSV Elbrus hosted a summit with representatives from every fleet and every major Earth government. The summit's agenda was simple: with Earth devastated and the fleet unprepared for long-term operation without resupply, how will the sentients currently trapped in the Sol system survive?

While stressing that contacting settlements outside the Sol system remains an urgent necessity, several leaders expressed optimism after the first day of the summit. "We came to Sol in the spirit of unity," said Primarch Victus of the Turian Hierarchy. "I'm glad to say that spirit is still alive and well, and with care, we have all the resources we need until contact is restored with the rest of the galaxy."

Some measures have already been agreed upon. Enough Quarian lifeships survived the Battle of Earth to allow foodsharing with the Turian Hierarchy's ships. With rationing, this should provide dextro-amino sentients enough food to last for at least a year - although Admiral Zorah of the Quarians emphasized that securing another food source must still be a priority. "We lost too many lifeships to feed everyone forever. Our agricultural facilities will need to operate beyond a sustainable level to feed the Quarian and Turian fleets. Without another food source, we will be locked into a downward spiral as the lifeship ecologies fail."

The Quarians are making other contributions as well. Quarian engineers with a lifetime of experience keeping ships running without proper supply or drydock facilities (all of which were destroyed by the Reapers) will be dispatched through out the fleet to make sure even ships damaged in the Battle of Earth will still be able to contribute to the fleet's efforts. The Geth have also volunteered for widespread deployment; the strength and resilience of Geth platforms, combined with their technical acumen, makes them ideally suited for a number of jobs that would be dangerous or impossible for other sentients.

Other measures have been agreed to in principle but are not yet ready for implementation. A great deal of focus will be placed on speeding the recovery of Earth. "Earth stands ready to assist the fleets that came to our defense," said President Lisa Ford of the United North American States. "The fleet has technical expertise and supplies that we need, and there's a lot they can do to bootstrap our recovery, which will then allow us to return the favor." Ford admitted that a full recovery of Earth-based agriculture may take too long to provide for the entire fleet's short-term food needs, but emphasized that every effort must nonetheless be made, especially given the uncertain status of other food sources, such as colonies outside the Sol system.

All the summit attendees demurred to comment on setting up a provisional government for the Sol system for the duration of the emergency, an issue which has been extremely contentious to date. Earth-based (and some Alliance) officials claim that Sol remains sovereign human territory, while leaders of the alien fleets insist that, under the circumstances, power must be shared between all the sentients in Sol.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sol Bulletin #2

(The Sol Bulletin is an initial effort by me to create a "head canon" about the ending of Mass Effect 3. It is in fact a singularly dry and geeky form of fan fic. The ending has been discussed ad nauseum by more patient and eloquent people  than me; I'm less interested in discussing what was wrong with it than in beginning to craft something that's going to work for me as a payoff to this great story. The only things I can absolutely promise right now is that a) the Reapers were defeated, b) organics and synthetics weren't synthesized, and c) the Normandy didn't crash land on an alien world after going through a Mass Relay. The Indoctrination Theory is on the table. Everything is provisional.

WARNING. Spoilers abound.)

The following is excerpted from issue #2 of the Sol Bulletin, an ad hoc news sheet distributed electronically among survivors of the Battle of Earth in the chaotic period following the firing of the Crucible. Issue #2 was released four days after the Crucible fired.

Charon Relay Reactivated
After days of around-the-clock effort, scientists formerly attached to the Crucible Project succeeded in reactivating the Charon Relay. In a statement, Admiral Hackett said that the process used by the Crucible scientists was fundamentally similar to the known procedure for activating a dormant relay, but required a massively higher amount of power. The main innovation of the scientists was a procedure for combining the power output from many ships - apparently a significant percentage of the craft surviving the Battle of Earth - and feeding it directly into the relay.

Following the Relay's activation, a special detail of ships, jumped through to Arcturus. Since it it believed that the Crucible may have drawn power from many or even all Relays, their mission will be to scout the system and, if necessary, activate the Arcturus Relay in order to make the return journey. The small fleet, dubbed the Arcturus Flotilla, included craft manned by every species with an organized presence in Sol. It will operate under the command of Major Kaidan Alenko of the Systems Alliance Navy.

Hackett said he is optimistic about the success of the Arcturus Flotilla, and that a plan is being prepared to begin a larger-scale activation of the Relay network. Thanks to the complexity of the procedure and the amount of power required, it may take years to fully reactivate the network. Hackett said the Fleet's first objective will be to make contact with the partially intact colonies in the Exodus Cluster, to confirm that the Reaper threat has ended there, and to stabilize a food supply for survivors on Earth and the huge force of levo-amino sentients present in the fleet that liberated Sol.

No ships have yet returned, but scientists predicted that it may take up to two days to complete the Relay activation process.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Emily Wong

Article pulled from the Future Content Corporation Citadel Extranet Site, March 6, 2181, no byline, with a note of thanks for additional reporting from Mass Effect Wiki.

Emily Wong, noted journalist and newly-minted hero of the Systems Alliance, is presumed dead today after apparently giving her life to aid the Alliance forces resisting the as-yet mysterious invaders attacking Earth.

Wong’s story was followed breathlessly by humans and other sentients in the Citadel and across the galaxy after downed com buoys in the Sol system left her – through the use of a quantum entanglement communicator – the sole source of information about the attack. Aided by other survivors and Alliance military personnel, Wong kept broadcasting throughout the day, even while taking an active part in the fight to defend Earth by attempting search-and-rescue operations, scouting the invaders’ strongholds, and taking up arms alongside Alliance soldiers.

Wong’s broadcast, dubbed the Sol Communications and abbreviated #solcomms on the extranet, not only provided critical information about events unfolding on Earth, but also shone a light onto the character of an extraordinary human. Wong first rose to prominence on the Citadel after publishing evidence of an extensive crime ring operating out of the notorious Chora’s Den bar, a high-profile story that eventually resulted in her becoming the anchor of a regular news show for the Future Content Corporation. Wong later left the Citadel to take a position as a senior investigative reporter at the Alliance News Network.

The decision to pursue a difficult, dangerous investigative role over a prestigious anchor job was typical of Wong. Beloved by audiences for her friendly demeanor and undeniable charisma, it was Wong’s remarkable blend of courage, compassion and integrity that won the respect of her peers. Never afraid to pursue big, dangerous stories, Wong also never hesitated to bring less dramatic issues to light. Although her Chora’s Den story achieved higher ratings, Wong’s painstaking report on working conditions for Citadel traffic controllers had a more lasting impact, resulting in new regulations and measurably fewer accidents for ships docking at the Citadel. Wong’s focus was always on the work and on the world around her rather than on showmanship or her own career.

No amount of praise can memorialize Wong as well as the Sol Communications themselves. This reporter would argue that no other working journalist could have produced the broadcast. Wong was someone willing to ram an enemy warship at need, but also someone willing to help a companion find his family, all without ever compromising her duty as a journalist. She had the compassion to want to change the world, the courage and ability to do so, and the charisma to spread a message of hope even in the face of almost certain death.

Future Content Corporation offers its fondest remembrances and deepest sympathies to Wong’s loved ones, including her parents mentioned in the Sol Communications. In a time of great confusion and tragedy after the attack on Earth, Wong’s heroism is an example to every human being and to every sentient in the galaxy.

You can view the Sol Communications in their entirety on the Alliance News Network Extranet feed here or learn more about the attack on Earth here.